Trade unions today told bosses to let staff work flexible hours and wear shorts as they said it was too hot to work.
Britons have been urged to stay out of the sweltering sun from 11am to 3pm as temperatures head towards 101F (38C) in the ‘Mediterranean melt’ that is gripping the UK during the country’s longest heatwave since 1976.
Argos, Currys and John Lewis are struggling to keep up with demand for fans, with many products now ‘limited stock’ or ‘out of stock’ on the retailers’ websites as people desperately try to stay cool at home or in the office.
And the Trades Union Congress has suggested allowing staff to work flexible hours to avoid travelling in the rush hour, providing fans and cold drinks and let workers wear lightweight clothes.
There are no restrictions for when the workplace becomes too hot, but the TUC is campaigning for a change in the law for a new maximum indoor temperature of 86F (30C), or 81F (27C) for those doing strenuous jobs.
One doctor’s surgery in Margate, Kent, was forced to shut until Friday due to the ‘extreme weather’. Garlinge GP Surgery said temperatures had hit 88F (31C) inside its Portakabins, which was ‘unacceptable for patients and staff’.
It comes after millions of people across the country struggled to sleep in temperatures as high as 75F (24C) overnight, following the hottest day of the year so far yesterday that saw the mercury hit 91.9F (33.3C) to Suffolk.
But the Met Office has issued a thunderstorm warning for Friday afternoon and evening across North and East England, amid concerns over up to 2.4in (60mm) of rain in three hours and potential power cuts and flooding. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘It’s no fun working in a baking office or factory and employers should do all they can to take the temperature down.
‘The most simple way for staff to keep cool inside when it’s scorching outside is being able to work in more casual clothing. While shorts and vest tops may not be appropriate for all, nobody should be made to wilt in the heat for the sake of keeping up appearances.
‘Bosses who provide a cool and comfortable work environment are going to get more out of their staff. Workers who are unable to dress down in more appropriate summer clothing, or who work in offices without air-conditioning, fans or a plentiful supply of cool drinking water, are going to feel lethargic, and lack inspiration and creativity.’
Halfords has seen sales of coolboxes rise by 158 per cent against this time last year, while beach shelters are up by 600 per cent, and sunglasses have increased 280 per cent. It is also selling a camping chair every minute.
Tourism chiefs have blasted ‘nannying’ warnings to stay out of the sun in the heatwave, after the Met Office issued an amber health alert amid concerns that temperatures could hit 35C (95F) by the end of the week.
Together with health bosses, forecasters urged the public either to avoid the sun altogether, or at least stay indoors between 11am and 3pm when the heat is strongest.